Pulmonary Expression of Interleukin-17 Contributes to Neutrophil Infiltration into the Lungs during Pneumonic Plague

Infect Immun. 2023 Jul 18;91(7):e0013123. doi: 10.1128/iai.00131-23. Epub 2023 Jun 20.


Inhalation of respiratory droplets infected with Yersinia pestis results in a rapidly progressing and lethal necrotic pneumonia called primary pneumonic plague. Disease manifests as biphasic, with an initial preinflammatory phase with rapid bacterial replication in the lungs absent readily detectable host immune responses. This is followed by the onset of a proinflammatory phase that sees the dramatic upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines and extensive neutrophil accumulation in the lungs. The plasminogen activator protease (Pla) is an essential virulence factor that is responsible for survival of Y. pestis in the lungs. Our lab recently showed that Pla functions as an adhesin that promotes binding to alveolar macrophages to facilitate translocation of effector proteins called Yops into the cytosol of target host cells via a type 3 secretion system (T3SS). Loss of Pla-mediated adherence disrupted the preinflammatory phase of disease and resulted in early neutrophil migration to the lungs. While it is established that Yersinia broadly suppresses host innate immune responses, it is not clear precisely which signals need to be inhibited to establish a preinflammatory stage of infection. Here, we show that early Pla-mediated suppression of Interleukin-17 (IL-17) expression in alveolar macrophages and pulmonary neutrophils limits neutrophil migration to the lungs and aids in establishing a preinflammatory phase of disease. In addition, IL-17 ultimately contributes to neutrophil migration to the airways that defines the later proinflammatory phase of infection. These results suggest that the pattern of IL-17 expression contributes to the progression of primary pneumonic plague.

Keywords: IL-17; Yersinia; Yersinia pestis; plague; pneumonic plague.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Interleukin-17 / genetics
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neutrophil Infiltration
  • Plague*
  • Yersinia pestis* / metabolism


  • Interleukin-17